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Tuesday - May 12, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Rooting desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) from a cutting
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus


I found a desert willow with great bloom color and I am trying to root a cutting. I have never tried to root a cutting but I have read that desert willow is easy to root. My first attempt was in a vase with rooting hormone and the leaves died and I could not see any roots. I did see some very fine hair-like structures that looked more like a form of decay. My second attempt has been in plain water but I have gotten the same result. The first cuttings were before buds appeared and the second had buds on them. Am I attempting this at the wrong time of year? I have set the vase/containers in an area of the house that gets a lot of light but it is not direct sunlight. Any advice is appreciated.


Mr. Smarty Plants is going to refer you to the native plant propagation expert, Jill Nokes.  In her book How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (available for sale in the Wildflower Center store and in most libraries and bookstores) this is what she says about rooting cuttings of Chilopsis linearis (desert willow):

"Desert Willow is easily rooted from semihardwood cuttings of the current season's growth taken in late May and June.  The cuttings should be treated with 5,000 IBA in alcohol solution and kept under intermittent mist... . As the cuttings begin to callus and form roots, reduce the frequency of misting to encourage the cuttings to harden off and avoid stem rot.  Cuttings usually root in 2-3 weeks.

Root development is best in a light soil mix rather than straight perlite alone.  Roots tend to be brittle and a soil blend encourages branching." (p.201)

To make a 1.0% solution of IBA (which is 10,000 ppm), dissolve 5 grams of the IBA in 1 pint (16 oz.) of 70% isopropyl alcohol.  To make the 5,000 ppm solution you mix one part of the 1.0% solution with an equal amount of isopropyl solution, according to Nokes. (p.52)

You could also just buy a pre-made rooting gel or powder (e.g.,  Clonex, Rootone, etc.) at a garden center.

Storing the cuttings in your house where there is lots of light, but not direct sunlight is good.  The best temperature range for rooting the cuttings is 70-80°.


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